I’ve been viewing this discussion on the components of Christian marriage on Donal’s post. The fact that we have to call it “Christian marriage” in the first place is bad. Marriage is created by God and defined by God. Hence, all Christian marriage is just marriage. But that’s a topic that has been beaten ad nausium.
Let’s start with marriage. Creating a marriage is multi-factorial.
Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
The original marriage is a framework. It tells us important components of what a marriage, which are namely:
- Father giving the daughter to the man — God giving Eve to Adam
- Separating from family(s) — leaving father and mother [to make an independent family unit]
- Coming together [to be with and live with] — joined to his wife
- Having sex — becoming one flesh
- In the presence of witnesses [traditionally with a wedding celebration] — in this case, Father/Jesus/Spirit and potentially angels.
Now, there are examples from the Scriptures where some of these components are missing, but ideally you want all of these to make up a marriage given our example from Genesis 2. Note: no marriage license is required, although God says to obey the laws of your nation (which, I concede is debatable given that other forms of non man-woman marriage is now lumped in with that).
Marriage has roles and responsibilities.
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church [q]in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she [r]respects her husband.
Obviously, Ephesians 5 exhorts a large chunk of them, but additional ones are found in 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Corinthians 14, Colossians 3, Titus 2, 1 Peter 3, 1 Timothy 4, and so on. The OT also provides solid guidelines such as Numbers 30 and other passages on treatment of husbands and wives in marriages.
It is important to note that this these things are God’s framework for marriage. These are things we want to do if we want to glorify God with our marriage and sanctify ourselves, which as Christians we should be aiming toward. Those who ignore these roles and responsibilities are not being sanctified and not glorifying God.
Yes, an egalitarian marriage may be, for all intents and purposes, “successful” according to human metrics and even some others like no divorce. However, that does not mean they are glorifying God or sanctifying themselves through adherence to God’s law. This is extremely important to remember, as I’m sure many of us know many marriages that are egalitarian or even non-Christian that that we are uncomfortable with because they “work.”
Just because they seemingly “work” does not mean they are holy or glorify God.
1 Corinthians 7:1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3 The husband must [a]fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and [b]come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 [c]Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
In regard to marriage, properly, there is an Eros component.
- For those who burn, it is generally better to marry. If you burn then celibacy is probably not for you.
- Sex is an integral component of marriage, both for the husband and the wife. They owe each other a marital debt, which should be regularly paid. The exception being mutual agreement for prayer and only for a short time.
Although cultural marriage today is largely hedonic in nature, it would be false to say that marriage, according to the Scripture, lacks a eros/hedonic component. In fact, from the beginning and even today God has created marriage to be the way in which our sexual desire is holy and therefore made manifest to glory God through its particular fruits: pleasure, well-being, unity, and procreation.
This is why it is gnostic heresy to dismiss physical attractiveness and other components of created human nature such as sexual desire as many Christians do including FotF’s Boundless and commenters. In fact, the Scriptures make an adequate case that marriage is an earthly construct meant for earthly purposes, and all are to glorify God.
Eros is an integral part of marriage as God created it. Therefore, trying to draw a distinction of “how much eros/hedonic is needed” as opposed to other components such as hierarchy and roles and responsibilities in marriage is futile exercise. This is like trying to tear the body away from the mind, soul, and spirit. You can’t do it, nor would you want to. They’re all parts that are integrated as one magnificently by God.
The eros responsibility
This is why I have been fairly clear in my writing that attraction and desire are important components of marriage. Those who try to downplay it tend to fall prey to gnostic heresy like asceticism where human desires such as sex should be shed as some form of enlightenment and/or godliness. Is eros the only component? Certainly not. We’ve talked about many of the other components of marriage such as the structural hierarchy and roles and responsibilities. However, all of these things need to come together as one.
One Christian may want a “larger” eros component of marriage than another. This glorifies God, if the component is used correctly: paying the marital debt. Another Christian may consider a “smaller” eros component the ideal for their marriage. This too glorifies God, if the component is used correctly: paying the marital debt. Both of these are good and glorify God.
It is important to note that it is not your marital debt that needs to be fulfilled, it is the other spouse’s marital debt to which you have an obligation. Their responsibility is to you, and your responsibility is to them. This is why I believe it is important to talk to your potential spouse about their sex drive, so that you are aware of their marital debt which is your obligation is marriage.
It is a mistake to believe that those who have a larger eros component in their marriage are in sin just as it is to believe those who have a smaller eros component in their marriage are in sin. Likewise, it is also a mistake to believe that the eros component reflects on the other roles and responsibilities of marriage. What glorifies God for the eros component is selflessness to fulfill the marital debt. Nothing else.
This should make intuitive sense now that you have heard it, but it is not the common line of thought for Christians. The eros component of marriage is the marital debt. Can you fulfill that with respect? No. Can you fulfill it with with headship? No. Can you fulfill it with submission? No. Submission to having sex, yes. Specific components of marriage must be fulfilled by that specific act.
For the marital debt, the only thing that fulfills it is sex.
I think it should be abundantly clear now how there is an eros component of marriage which is integral to the marriage as a whole. The desire for sex cannot be separated out from the various components of marriage such as the hierarchy or other roles and responsibilities.
A larger or smaller eros component is up to the individual. What glorifies God is not whether this component is large or small. Rather, what glorifies God is that you are selfless in satisfying the marital debt of your husband or wife. If it is large then satisfy it with much sex. If it is small, satisfy it with some sex. Ensure that your husband or wife is satisfied.
Likewise, one cannot fulfill any of the other roles and responsibilities of marriage without expressly targeting the goal set forth in the Scriptures. For example, husbands are to emulate Christ to wash and his bride by the water of the word to sanctify and cleanse her so that she may be spotless and blameless. This may mean exhorting her on Scripture for head coverings, even if she doesn’t like them. This may mean pointing out opinions that are influenced by culture or sin in order to give her the the opportunity to obey and repent to God to become [more] holy. It’s a process of taking off the old and putting on the new.
These are the things that glorify God and make us more like Him, even though they are difficult, painful, and feel like persecution. This has been the recent case of men who have wives that are disobedient to their husband’s admonition with the Scriptures. The responsibility of the husband is fulfilled by making clear the commands of God, which brings glory to God through completing the task assigned to him. Any further rebellion is on her own head and not his.
At the end of the day, it’s not about us. It’s about Jesus. Being privy to each component of Scripture set before us — marriage components if applicable — allows us to glorify God in our actions by completing the task he has set before us. To that He says: ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your [c]master.’